Yoga Therapy Blog
Those Beautiful Yoga-Free Days
Should I feel good when I don’t do my yoga & meditation practices?
Those beautiful yoga-free days happened after a four-day drive from Amsterdam through France, when I found myself surrounded by a few members of my Spanish family during a typically hot September night. We hugged and laughed under the full moon until late hours. Sweat, garlic, drinks and children running around in the local square, you could breathe melancholy in the air.
My cousin’s wife, a fabulously large woman with sparkling eyes, spoke enthusiastically to her youngest daughter, pointing in my direction: “Your auntie Montserrat runs an amazing yoga school!!!”…
“Ooops”…I thought to myself, as a devilish feeling of guilt popped up in my mind. I realised I hadn’t done my yoga practice for a while…maybe a week? or had it been longer?…In fact, I hadn’t thought about yoga or done my morning meditation practices since I had left the Netherlands….and, the most curious thing was, I felt amazing!
During a recent private conversation, one of our most dedicated students admitted feeling terribly guilty and disappointed with herself because she had not done her yoga practice for a couple of weeks. The reason, she said, was because her mother had fallen and broken her hip and she had taken over her care. This sudden role was overwhelming her, and she found it hard to juggle the communication with the hospital, her mother’s doctor, other members of the family and her elderly mum…
A dedicated practice
When I was younger, for many years I thought that if I didn’t do my yoga practice every day, the yoga gods would go down on me with disappointment. My yoga mat travelled with me everywhere and I religiously did my physical, breathing and meditating practice twice a day, plus reading in the evenings inspiring, spiritual literature.
I dutifully fulfilled my own expectations as a yoga practitioner and meditator until, inevitably, life happened: a sick child, a problem at work, a phone call from the school, a family emergency, or a blocked bathroom sink.
If there is something I have a learned through my “yogic” life is that the famous yoga and buddhist gurus in History didn’t have to change nappies, fight their way through traffic, prepare school lunches, go to work with a heavy period and struggle to pay their mortgage. Let alone wait for the washing-machine technician all day. There is no mental or physical space when your two-year old is having a tantrum in the supermarket, which is perhaps the most frazzling experience I’ve ever had, and I’ve run marathons.
An epic trip
Only recently, I did a four-day epic trip to Spain. I call it epic because I drove with two wonderful friends back to the place where I was born, after 32 years of absence. I sold and gave away most of my possessions and at the age of 55 I arrived with a suitcase to my family’s place.
Passing through quaint villages, getting lost in the midst of a storm, squatting in filthy toilets and sharing stories amongst laughter and tears, I felt my soul slowly waking up to something I had not experienced for a long time: a sense of freedom.
When we finally arrived, we treated ourselves to modest but clean sheets, cooked food and a glass of wine, giggling and feeling elated from the time we had just spent together. My body was physically exhausted from the move, and I cried tears of sadness and joy at the start of a new chapter in my life. I had run away from home when I was 17 years-old without a penny in my pocket and I found myself back to make peace with my past.
In the coming days I would remind myself that I hadn’t done my breathing practice and my daily sun salutations…but I just couldn’t stop walking around the fruit and vegetable markets in the early morning sun, listening to the sound of the locals drinking coffee outside, spending time at the table -arguing about politics- with my family, having siestas, and watching in awe the starred skies at night!
I was so grateful for every single moment that I forgot to do my gratitude diary. Those beautiful yoga-free days again…
Those confusing, beautiful yoga-free days
I felt a little guilt, and confusion. During those non-yoga days I felt calm yet energised, balanced, and connected to myself and those around me. Life was not perfect, by all means, but it felt as if I was in the right place at the right time, even more than I ever felt on the mat.
In one of my early morning walks and thinking about this paradox, I suddenly realised that I had walked this path before, and that it had all been a long, familiar journey that had finally brought me to where I was. I could see with clarity that there is no choice between yoga practice and life. It is all one.
Taking care of our loved ones -as our student took care of her mum- laughing with friends, crying for our losses, walking in nature and connecting with the sky at night, are all yoga practices. In fact, how many times have I been on my yoga mat totally disconnected and thinking of something else? Did those physical exercises and breathing techniques have more meaning, or were they any better for me than what I just experienced in the last weeks?
Being human is such as complex, extraordinary experience, that we cannot reduce it only to a daily yoga flow or a sitting mindfulness practice. There is so much more to us and to the world that we are trying to connect to. The points of entry are many and varied, from sharing authentic love, diving in the ocean to giving birth and dying. It is our consciousness of these life events that make the difference.
Next time you feel bad about your own beautiful yoga-free days, missing your yoga class or not doing your meditation, take a quiet moment to yourself. If you look closely inside, you might see how you have already been doing your yoga by helping a friend, taking care of your family, working hard to pay for your rent and taking the time you needed to rest.
Personally, I am looking forward to doing my yoga practice tomorrow…or perhaps I might have a lazy morning with my daughter, or go for a swim. I will see all of it as a practice of life, and connect with it as deeply as I can.